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Program connects students with local farmers

Have you hugged a farmer today? This is a statement that many of us have seen on a car bumper sticker. However, if your child reads it, they would likely ask, “Why should we hug a farmer?” A recent program started by the Agri-Business Council of Oregon can give you all the facts and lots of examples to share with your child.

The program is called “Adopt a Farmer.” This learning program is designed for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. The purpose is to connect students to their rural roots. Here in House District 22 (Woodburn, Gervais, Brooks and North Salem) students see farms every day as they ride to school or drive between cities. What many of them have been missing out on is what it really takes to grow our food.

Science and technology have been improving our farming practices for years now. Most kids don’t know that farmers are now using drones to fly over their fields to detect the moisture in the soil so that they can conserve water and get the best growing environment for plants. By engaging students at the middle school level with some of the interesting science that goes into crops the hope is that might lead to higher education interest in agriculture. Getting kids fired up about farming when they’re young is what will help Oregon to continue producing some of the world’s best produce. We are world leaders in hazelnut production and blueberries. And Iowa is not the only state that grows corn. Keeping Oregon at the forefront of innovative farming practices will help our state stay near the top in farming production.

The way Adopt-A-Farmer works is that teachers partner with a farmer giving the students get a hands-on experience for an entire school year. The students get to visit their class’s farm in the fall and again in the spring. During the rest of the year the farmer comes to their classroom once a quarter to bring lessons to students about agriculture connected with the science and economic issues being studied in class. What a great way to learn for the farmer, the students and the teachers.

Many of us know how the earth smells when it is plowed in the spring. But have you really gone out to a field and taken a piece of the newly turned soil and break it apart to see what is in that handful of dirt? It has compost; it has worms to support the natural elements that create a strong healthy crop. Farmers rely on universities to test soil content, but students can do that in the classroom and explore, predict and analyze production just like a farmer does. Farming is as much science as it is art in dealing with natural elements such as storms, sunlight exposure and pests.

It is difficult for teachers to show real life science cycles, yet Oregon has an abundance of family farms. Ninety-eight percent of Oregon farms are family owned and operated. These are the farmers who want to be part of a new tradition of teaching and learning the science of growing all the things we eat. The “Adopt a Farmer” program is having an incredible first year, opening in 35 schools this fall.

To learn more, you can go to the Oregon agriculture website and view a video at www.aglink.org.

Don’t just hug your farmer, include your children with real life farm experiences so they can be ready to make decisions when they are adults.



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